Thursday, September 29, 2005

M a l i s k u

Hi guys
The title is created out of two words - mailing-list and sudoku.

M a l i s k u

Once upon a time, there was a small town with 24 houses where 24 people lived. They were called Alpha, Beta, Gamma, .. Psi, Omega. It was a small town.

They never made any enemies with each other. In fact, they were the best of friends. If anybody had to leave the town on any business, he would get very irritated. He would keep cursing until he got back to the town. He would feel a terrible longing to return to his friends, to party and to rejoice.

They hardly did any work other than partying. They never grew tired out of it - they seemingly had unending appetites for it.

A weird bunch of people, they were. They were totally inseparable. It was hard to talk of anybody without mentioning the entire bunch of 24.

One day, they discovered a new game. It was a pretty fun game. They called it "malisku". They put up a large wall in the centre of the village. Each one of them would then go and paste a paper on the wall - with a sentence written on the paper. They could do it every day. The goal was to make a story on the wall, a story in which each person would contribute.

The tricky part was that they would not meet each other or see each other. They stayed in their houses and stopped seeing anyone else. Life became different, but it was pretty much fun though. They would spend time attending other jobs. Or they would keep thinking about what they would write on the paper. Or they would plainly keep on sleeping.

The people grew accustomed to the wall. They liked it. It was filled up pretty enthusiastically too. An interesting story started to get built up. Sometimes the story had twists and sometimes it had none. But mostly, it went along.

In the paper slips, people soon began to identify the ones written by Epsilon.

They went like this,
"hee hee ha ha haha hahaa",
"heee heee hee hee >:-)",
"ha haha haa hhaa x-)"

One day, somebody pointed out that these messages made no sense. They were not contributing to the story. He said Epsilon should paste meaningful sentences instead. Somebody else said no. He said he liked the messages. These messages added to the humour part of the story, he said. Then life went on as usual with the wall.

But one day, something strange happened.

Delta found a paper slip on the door of his house. He was surprised. It was signed by Gamma. It said "Sigma is dead. I am sure of it. She has not come out of the house for days. I know it is against the rules - but I have been spying on her. She is dead ! "

Then Delta felt sad, he wanted to investigate. But he did not go speak with Gamma. It had been a long time since he did some speaking - he had lost the habit of it. Speaking felt strange. So he posted a paper slip on the house of Gamma. "Let's go find out. Let's tell others too ! "

The next day, there were two paper slips on the houses of Delta and Gamma.

"They were dead ! They were all dead !! I have seen them personally. They are as cold as bones."

"They are dead ! Dont know when they died. I could not move them an inch. They were as dead as stones"

Gamma had found a girl who was sitting on a table, writing something on the paper slip. But she was not a girl, she was a skeleton. The fingers did not move. The body was locked into a stillness when the girl died, when she died trying to write a message.

Delta had found a boy digging into the ground. In fact, the boy had shoveled up 25 feet of the ground. But then he died - standing as cold as a stone, with the shovel in his hand. Delta had found a skeleton holding a shovel.

Gamma had found a boy who was standing in front of a mirror. He had been looking into it continuously, and then he died there. Gamma had found a skeleton looking into the mirror.

But the wall continued to display new messages.

Beta wrote. "They went on a holiday."

Gamma wrote, "They were dead."

Delta wrote, "Yes, They were all dead."

Epsilon wrote, "Hee hee >:-)"

Alpha wrote, "So they moved into a hotel"

Beta wrote, "Was it nice ?"

Alpha wrote, "It was nice"

Epsilon wrote, "Ha ha hahaa"

Gamma wrote,"....."

Delta wrote, "....."

Alpha wrote, "And they moved out of the hotel"

Later that, Gamma and Delta never wrote on the wall. But Alpha and Beta kept on writing. And Epsilon kept on writing too.

But there was something in the town that happened.
They were all dead !

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

S w o r d S w a l l o w e r s

Telugu people can get some guilty pride from this. Sword swallowing originated in Andhra Pradesh. And yes, these guys really swallow swords !

Would anybody in a really sane mind do it ??? Yes, so it seems, for the sake of entertaining the audience. (IMHO, the answer is NO. You got to be totally insane to do something like this !!)

Here is a huge treasure-chest of information about sword swallowers. Got the link via Régine Debatty - my personal cyber goddess and news agent.

Apart from swallowing swords, Andhrites were reported to perform several freaky-acts. Such as hanging the spinal cord to an iron hook and making repeated dips into the river Krishna (to please Durga in Vijayawada - not more than 150 years ago). Gives me creeps that I was born in this very region !!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

F a n g O f a W o l f

That is what my nickname means ! Did you guys know that ? Neither did I. Kiba is Japanese for exactly that.

More surprises await. There exists a popular Japanese anime which goes by the name Wolf's Rain.

Kiba is the hero of the story - he is a wolf who takes a human form and who finally finds paradise :-))

So you guys take note of that !!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

P o s t S o v i e t M a r x i s m

An essay with a carefully built logical argument has the same effect on the brain as does a delicious cup of coffee. America is not a hamburger is one such article. After feasting on several of her delicious essays, I have grown to respect Naomi Klein. It is nice to see the critics of the capitalist theory find their new voices in the uni-polar world of today.

Here is a simple maxim that my father has told me when I was a kid - When you are unsure in deciding between two opposing theories, always side with the one which encourages criticism and argument. In the current scenario, the pundits of free-trade keep harping on the point that "Communism was a failed ideology. Soviet Union was dead. So were the pre-historic policies of China and India". They would not welcome any argument or criticism. On the other hand, the left-wing has found several brilliant orators such as Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky who have been very vocal in their criticism. Their arguments would have made Bertrand Russel proud ! But I still have to read Amartya Sen, and I suspect that will improve my outlook.

Previously, the focus in the criticism of Capitalist theory used to be on the accumulation of capital and on the control of production-engines by a limited few. Currently, I think the focus has shifted to the freedom of expression and to the decentralization of authority. This has a huge relevance for the information age that we have stepped into.

Marxist theory had been developed to explain the industrial age. I agree that it has become dated. But unfortunately, it still continues to the best criticism on capitalist ideology. I hope to see a worthy successor to Marxism which will eventually explain the information age.

I believe we can take help from the big brother and the little brother (previous article) in discovering alternative ways of decentralizing the jobs of administration. For instance, take a look at this speculation about the society of secret journalists that I have stirred.

A g e O f T h e L i t t l e B r o t h e r

When George Orwell wrote his novel 1984, he was talking about how political systems (specifically totalitarian regimes) could bring about a disaster in the human values and human relationships in a society. But uncannily, this novel has an import to our modern times and how technology is shaping our modern society.

I have discovered this nasty joke about two years ago, while I was chit-chatting with Gokce, a friend of mine.

"So have you decided what you want to work on ? "
"I don't know. I think I'll work in computer vision."
"So you will be working for the big brother.. ;-) ?"
"eh !!?"
"The big brother as in the novel 1984. You will be helping him."

Then I understood; Computer Vision deals with pattern analysis in visual imagery. In other words, the development of tools for monitoring and surveillance of people. Till then, I haven't looked at this research as helping big brother. But it is true.

As I thought about it, I had come to notice that everything in Computer Science can be divided into either big brother research or little brother research. But this is inevitable and this is the future of our science.

My first story in this blog : Shashka's Town was inspired from this futuristic world of technological slavery.

I have written the following article for my college magazine, about three semesters ago. And the magazine has not come out since then !!! The Mag Team is busy snoring and lest I forget about this article completely, I will post it in this blog. The article reads a little like doomsday-news, but please bear with it ! I wanted my debutant article to be a bit on the sensational side :-)

A g e O f T h e L i t t l e B r o t h e r

Few people realize the absurdity of times that we are moving into. The society in which we grew up is rapidly disappearing. After another ten years, we will be battling a completely different kind of life. This will be the time when our generation takes up the mantle of social and familial obligations, and we will be totally unprepared.

The last century witnessed prolific writing in science fiction, and some trends for the later 50 to 100 years have been brilliantly predicted. But today, the pace of scientific change is so rapid that the moment you utter something, it already throws itself onto your face. In this article, I want to talk about the convergence of virtual reality and communication engineering. This will potentially change every aspect of life as we know it. I am not sure whether that will be for the better or for the worse.

"The big brother is watching you !!". Admirers of George Orwell will remember this scary line from the 1984, his celebrated novel about the ramifications of a totalitarian regime (brought in by a communist revolution). But needless of a mismanaged social revolution, that world is becoming a reality for all of us, thanks to the technological revolution.

Today is the day of cheap hard discs and small cameras. Tomorrow will be the day of much cheaper hard discs and much smaller cameras. What this means is that any moment you move or say something, you might be recorded - possibly without your notice, possibly from multiple cameras. And quite possibly telecasted to several Peeping Toms sitting leisurely at remote corners of the world. Not to mention the insecure Peeping Toms leering at you in the neighborhood. The people with maximum insecurity always happen to sit in the seat of the government, and they will be watching you as well.

This itself is scary for privacy advocates (and girls !). But there is a catch, there will be humongous amounts of data amongst the video footage captured from the cameras. The sheer size of the video makes the task of detecting interesting activity (whatever interesting might mean) impractical. Now enter the fields of pattern recognition, data mining and object recognition.

Is it any strange that the people who do research in these areas are the blue-eyed boys of Defence and FBI ? I am not exaggerating when I say that all the funds towards this research are generated from Defence budget, for applications such as monitoring passengers in railway trains or observing transcripts in chat rooms. In the post 9-11 world, every government is demanding this license to observe people in public places, sometimes even in private places. So I want to throw a word of caution to all the young researchers of these fields. Watch yourself or you might be helping the big brother.

Now let me quickly announce that the researchers working in the rest of the areas in computer science are spared no less. They are unconsciously heping in creating a bigger evil - the little brother, who is also currently known by the name of cell phone. Soon this instrument will mature into an omni-communicator and omni-computer. The omniphone (let's call it little-brother from now on) will help you watch unlimited movies, browse the entire world wide web (or semantic-web in the future) and do video-chat for ridiculously low prices. The address book in the little brother will no longer resemble the address-book of the cell phones, but will be in the likes of a GPS-enabled Friendster or a GPS-enabled Orkut. In addition to voice and pictures, the little brother shall relay the remaining 3 senses - smell, touch and taste. Research towards telepresence in these areas is being undertaken in a huge way by several research labs in Japan. In this age of the little brother, people will have to rethink about the basic definitions of ethics, psychology and economics.

Would you rejoice at the birth of the little brother ? As for me, well, I am pretty scared. Even by today, I spot 30% of human beings glued to their cell-phones instead of talking with people physically next to them. Just watch around you and check for the validity of the 30% law yourself. Give another 10 years, and I fear 90% of all communication shall be mediated through the little brother. People might find it unnecessary to physically attend universities or work in offices. Most of the people will not excercise and find themselves turning into vegetables. Even intimate relationships such as those between a mother and a child and those between a wife and a husband will be mediated through the little brother. I am not talking about communication as in speaking, but even as in touch and smell !!!

Gone shall be the days when there was an excitement in coming across and meeting new people. All the people that you shall meet in in your life-time will be in the database of the little brother, and this database can be looked up at any time. Gone shall be the days when there was fun in visiting new places. Clicking through a destination in the virtual world will be much cheaper and much more rewarding. Gone shall be the days when there was a lot of variety in culture. In the world of tomorrow, the Americans will be no different from the Chinese and the Indians will be no different from the Germans. Everyone will speak the same language, access the same pool of entertainment, and who knows, might even eat the same food ! Everyone will become the same unidentifiable vegetable. And gone shall be the days when there was a sense of adventure in lives.

Please note that all this happens in our own lifetimes.

Is this the end of Homo Sapiens as a species ?

IMO, I would mark the end at that point in time when virtual cyber sex becomes more cost effective and more enjoyable than real sex.

Friday, September 09, 2005

P e r m i s s i o n T o D i e

Hi friends
This is my first novel. It will be called Permission To Die. It is not exactly a novel, because it is not very big. You can call it a novella. It contains 8 chapters. And I have finally penned down the 1st chapter. I intend to create another blog for completing this novel, but it won't be public. If you liked this chapter, please email me or post a comment. I will add you as a member of the group for that blog.

N o t e s O n L o t u s P e t a l s

How can one resist a morning when one had left the night untouched ? Shiva did not resist the morning. For in the night, he had been busy. He had been busy feeling the vacuum that had been forming inside him. He had been busy writing a few letters into the vacuum. And busy watching them disappear into the void by a quick faded succession. He had been busy trying to keep his eyes open. Trying to keep his eyes open for the want of looking into nothingness, for the want of feeling more vacuum.

He had felt his blood seep through his heart. The white lotus petals that walled his heart had not resisted. As the blood trickled away, he had felt his own heartbeat sound like a whisper. The blood had coalesced into small droplets on the outer walls and then slowly evaporated into space. It had left frail smudges of redness as it evaporated, turning the white lotus petals of the walls into red.

The night had slowly undressed before him. But she had not been noticed, nor had been her lovely bosom. Shiva had been busy feeling the vacuum inside the red lotus. Too busy to smell the darkness. Too busy to submit himself to it.

And when the morning appeared, Shiva welcomed her with the same open eyes. She tip-toed into his eyes and tried to feel them. But the night was still alive and the weather was cold. The morning wanted to feel the warmth from the tiny lights of his eyes. But as she kept her hands onto them, she found them cold, like crystal. There was no light dancing in his eyes. There were just two very tiny droplets of water - one in each eye. The morning tried to rekindle the fire and blew a slow breeze into his eyes. Shiva could feel the wind as it softly circled in his eyes and then blew over his ears. The tiny water droplets in his eyes fluttered in the breeze and then slowly disappeared into a thin film.

Every morning has its own special song. The preparations for the song start as early as in the dark night when the dew falls. The dew crystallizes onto little drops on the flowers, on the bushes, and on the grass. Each droplet of water has its own shape, texture and position in the world. When the sun rises up, he reads each drop of water as a separate sheet of music. The most lovely pieces of music will crystallize onto the petals of lotus flowers. Hence, the sun always shares a special fondness for the lotus. He reads out all the pieces of music and waves to his orchestra to play in symphony. Then each stone, each leaf and each strand of hair vibrates and produces flutters of breeze - joining in the grand symphony.

This happens each morning and each morning has its own special song. Many people miss listening to this because their ears would be sleeping by the time. Most often, the ears keep on sleeping as the sun disappears in the evening. Sometimes, they keep sleeping for months together.

Shiva observed a faint golden glow in a remote corner of the sky. The morning kept blowing tiny gushes of wind into his eyes. And they slowly sparkled into a tiny flare. At this very instant, Shiva heard an ancient boom in his ears.

A million conch shells and a million flutes sounded together and they flew in a million notes around his ears, exploring every shade of pitch and every shade of timbre. At the same moment, the sun quickly rose up into an enormous sphere of redness and illuminated the east side of the sky in an orange glow. The whole world vibrated in unision.

Shiva reeled in a shock. He faintly reached out for his father's shehnai which laid hidden in a dark corner. He bit into the reed and closed his eyes. He drew air into his lungs and tried to reciprocate the music which was cascading into his ears. He played a few notes but could not produce the music. As he felt helpless, he put the shehnai down. His legs walked over the thin film of air above the ground and he floated over onto the outside.

Colors emanated at a milion objects from every corner of his sight. As the colors flew in, he shut his eyes in fatigue. He opened them slowly. With a lot of effort, he kept his gaze his gaze steady. And he sighted a sparrow. An early morning sparrow, which was picking among the twigs on the hedge.

It had an earthy brown color and beady eyes which resembled chickpeas. The eyes moved around in a watchful fashion. Shiva noticed the eyes moving around. And then, he trembled !

The sparrow took flight and landed onto a hibiscus tree.

A lone flower adorned the tree. In its brilliant redness, the flower was reflecting the sun. Shiva stared at the petals of the hibiscus and softly tasted its redness, He pointed his hand towards the flower. Then a wonderful thing happened. The red color from the petals leaped into the air and formed a tiny red cloud. The cloud fluttered in the air and then slowly settled down on his palm. Shiva put the red cloud into his pocket.

Then, he saw a tiny pebble on the ground. As he looked closer, the pebble subdivided into millions of crystalline surfaces. Shiva peered closer and closer, and he saw more and more. He felt suffocated in the fractalline geometry of the pebble. Then he shifted his gaze, and saw a thousand more grains of sand and stones. Each one of them started subdividing into manifold surfaces. His senses were overcome by fatigue and in that serene moment of peace, he drew his hand toward the stones. For a moment, the world stood still. Then, millions of textures leaped into the air from every stone, forming a shale of tiny clouds of colors, which slowly settled onto his palm. He put the clouds into his pocket.

Shiva noticed thousands of wonderful colors and carefully picked the loveliest ones amongst them. He picked the blue color from the nape of a parrot. He picked a shade of golden yellow from a ripe fruit hanging on a tree. He picked the greens from the early morning grass. He picked shades of violet from the bunches of wild lillies. He picked the blacks from the tails of ravens. He picked several flashes of light from the running waters of a stream.

His pocket grew heavy with the colors and overflowed. Shiva looked at a small ridge by the side of the road which formed a tiny peak at the top. As he scaled the little mountain, the sun saluted him with a warm beam of light.

Then Shiva took each color out of his pocket and started painting the sky. He painted a golden yellow around the sun, along with some splashes of green and blue. He painted a lot of blues in the west and in the south. He then painted a few black clouds in very curious shapes. In between, he added the flashes of light that he picked up from the eddies in the water. He painted several clouds in bright orange and in red, and then outlined their boundaries in silver.

With this done, he proceeded to do his other job - that of a clerk in the postal office.